Few Japanese films make it to the United States, but one that has - Ju-on: The Grudge - is guaranteed to scare your socks off. While it doesn't make as much sense as Ringu, Japan's most well-known import (and the film that was redone in Hollywood as The Ring), it is a whole heck of a lot scarier.
The plot revolving around Ju-on: The Grudge goes something like this: A home care worker named Rika goes to a house to help a bedridden old woman, only to find that a little boy is locked in a closet upstairs. Unfortunately for her, this boy is no little boy, but one of many incarnations of a deadly spirit that affects everyone who steps inside the house. As more and more people die, the police realize that this house has been the cause of all kinds of murders and disappearances. Even worse, the evil seems to be spreading beyond the house - is there any way to stop it?
The Grudge doesn't make a whole lot of sense, as it jumps around from time period to time period showing how various inhabitants of the house fell victim to the creature within. There are a lot of characters, and a couple of them look very similar (and being American, some of their names are too similar to keep track of as well). More than anything else, though, the plot just never materializes into something solid, as I left the film not knowing how this evil came to be and why it kills everyone it comes in contact with.
However, plot aside, The Grudge is one of the scariest movies I have seen in a long time. Whether it be the pale-faced little boy with blood red eyes (because history has taught us that evil little children are a force to be reckoned with) or the slaughtered ghost of a woman that pulls herself around with her arms and whose sounds of death can chill anyone's blood, this movie has got some freaky things in it. Furthermore, under the direction of Takashi Shimizu (who also wrote the film), they can appear at absolutely anytime, regardless of whether the character is in the house, on the street or in a restaurant. The ghosts appear and disappear at will, and so anytime the character even looks in a different direction, they could be waiting there, ready to scare both the character and audience alike.
The Grudge does not rely on "jumpy" scenes especially, but succeeds at providing a continuous onslaught of terror that starts in the third minute of the movie and continues until the closing credits. The ghosts are scary to look at, and the sounds associated with them are just as freaky.
While I would have liked to understand a little bit more about the evil in the house (of course, its two direct-to-video prequels may help with that), there is one thing for certain: the evil in the house is freaking scary. Anyone looking for a fun and scary thrill ride should definitely check out Ju-on: The Grudge.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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